What to tell yourself on a shitty day

Some days are pretty shitty. There’s no two ways about it.

Whether it’s because you stepped in some dog poop, or because someone was mean to you, or for some other reason—some days are just shitty.

It helps to accept this. But how?

I’ve had my share of shitty days, particularly when I was in the middle of burnout. For example, I used to have a lot of trouble deciding. Apparently indecision is a common stress symptom. I’d be biking to the coffee shop and I’d wonder, “Don’t I feel like heading to the bookstore instead?” So I would change direction and head to the bookstore.

On the way to the bookstore, I would change my mind again, thinking, “No, actually, I do feel like going to the coffee shop more.” Sometimes I would change my mind three or four times, reversing direction on my bike each time.

It was frustrating! The simplest decision was extraordinarily difficult for me. Not all days were like this; some days were simply filled with indecision, for whatever reason. But at one point, I had a realization. And I want to share it with you today:

The difficulty is all in your head.

Well, it probably is.

The external world doesn’t change much from day to day. Sure, sometimes it changes dramatically, but in general the external world is pretty stable.

If you find that one day is pretty shitty for you—shittier than usual—that is most likely because of something in your head, rather than because of something in the external world.

Realizing this is so powerful. Telling yourself, “Hey—this is going on in my head!” can make all the difference. Why? First of all, it means you can do something about it. For example, you can take a nap or get a good night’s sleep. The rest of the day, or the next day, is then usually not as shitty!

Second, difficulties in your head come and go naturally. Sometimes you feel great; sometimes you feel miserable. This is a normal part of the human experience. Because it’s normal, you don’t have to resist it. You can just accept it and trust that better times are coming your way.

Now, when you’re having a bad time, it’s not always easy to remember that the difficulty is probably because of a storm of sorts in your head. But try to remember anyway. When something isn’t going right, tell yourself, “Hey, I am currently perceiving things in a way that makes me stressed, frustrated, or angry.”

It just might make your shitty day slightly better.


— Peter

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